Jul 30

Len Okrie Coach, Catcher, Spy

Okire spent much of his career coaching the game he loved. Headlines like “Len Okrie has been named manager of the New York Penn League’s Corning Fed Sox” were as common for Len as the one that ran on 16 October 1962, “Red Sox retain Billy Herman, release Sal Maglie, Rudy York and Len Okrie. But that tells only part of the story.
Okrie was a native of Detroit. He gives credit for his success to his father who played with Detroit in the 1920s. He signed with the White Sox in 1942. They sent him to their Class D team in Lockport, NY. Then came the war.
Okrie enlisted and was assigned to Naval Intelligence. He became a code breaker and was shipped off to Alaska to intercept and break Japanese radio communications. Okrie was no doubt assigned to the Naval Intercept Station at Adak Island in the Aleutians. It was established in early 1943 and supported the successful US move to retake Kiska and Attu.
After the war he was purchased by the Cubs. His big break came on 10 November 1947 when he was acquired by Washington. The team was in need a sturdy backup. Okrie had a terrific arm, with no peer as a thrower to any base. But he also had the “good-field-no-hit” tag. He just could not hit.
He stayed with Washington most of the year except for five weeks when he was sent to bolster minor league clubs. He played 17 games for Washington in 1950 but at 26 years old his playing days were numbered.
He was traded in May 1951 for Mike Guerra and cash. Washington needed someone who could handle the flood of Latino ball players coming into their system.
In 1953 he began a successful minor league managerial career. That season his Bluefield nine won everything in sight. He continued coaching, mostly in the minors but did some time in the majors with Boston.
A highly respected manager, well known for his teaching skills. After his coaching days he had a brief career in law enforcement before retiring to Florida with his wife.